Philadelphia legislators aim to investigate the city’s review process for landmarks and monuments and propose changes to those public tributes that have vestiges of racism and bigotry.
On Thursday, City Council approved a resolution to hold a hearing on those issues. Councilmember Cindy Bass was the main sponsor of the resolution.
A hearing has yet to be scheduled.
Philadelphia is a city rife with statues — the overwhelmingly majority of which depict historical white men rendered larger than life and perched atop pedestals.
Scrutiny of the city’s monuments has intensified in recent years.
In the wake of city protests over the killing of George Floyd, who was Black, by a Minneapolis police officer last year, the Kenney administration removed a 9-foot statue of former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo at the base of the Municipal Services Building at 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd.
For some, Rizzo’s time in office was a symbol of Philadelphia’s racist past, heavy-handed police tactics and terror.
The city also is expected to remove a Christopher Columbus statue at Marconi Plaza. During the Floyd protests, armed groups gathered at the South Philadelphia statue and were accused of assaulting counter protesters.
The Octavius V. Catto monument, situated on the apron of City Hall, is probably the most well-known and visible public tribute to an African American in Philadelphia. The civil rights activist and scholar was gunned down on South Street by whites on election day in 1871. The monument was erected in 2017.
Oney Judge, the former slave who escaped from President George Washington’s Philadelphia house, is honored with the only piece of public art dedicated to an African-American woman. While her story is told through signage and images at the President’s House at the Independence National Historical Park, there is no statue.
The only freestanding bronze statue depicting a Black girl in the city was erected in 2019 at Smith Playground in South Philadelphia. A group of statues symbolizing an unnamed Black family also is in North Philadelphia.